Glaucoma is sometimes called the "silent thief of sight" because it typically causes no pain and produces no symptoms. However, glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness in the US, especially for older people.
Glaucoma is a disease of the optic nerve which is the nerve carrying images we view to the brain. It is typically, but not always, associated with elevated pressure in the eye. Elevated pressure in the eye can lead to irreversible damage to the optic nerve and affect the blood flow to the optic nerve resulting in a progressive, permanent loss of vision. Early detection and treatment are the keys to preventing optic nerve damage and blindness from glaucoma.
There are two different types of glaucoma
Chronic open-angle glaucoma
This is the most common glaucoma that occurs as a result of aging. The "drainpipe" of the eye becomes less efficient with time and pressure within the eye gradually increases.
Sometimes the drainage angle of the eye becomes completely blocked. When eye pressure builds up rapidly, it is considered acute angle-closure glaucoma.
Who gets glaucoma and what are the symptoms?
Glaucoma mainly occurs in adults over 40, but it can affect people of any age including children. Risk factors for glaucoma include a family history of the disease, African-Americans, Latinos, Asians, highly myopic (near-sighted) patients, and diabetic patients.
In chronic open-angle glaucoma there are initially no symptoms. This can damage vision so gradually and painlessly that you’re not aware of trouble until the optic nerve is already badly damaged. In contrast, angle-closure glaucoma is rare but is more noticeable. The pressure in the eye increases rapidly and causes severe eye pain, blurred vision, headache, rainbow haloes around lights and even nausea and vomiting.
What treatment options are recommended for glaucoma?
After a thorough evaluation, your doctor will advise you on the best treatment. Generally, damage caused by glaucoma cannot be reversed. However, eye drops, pills, laser surgery, and surgical operations are used to prevent, or slow, further damage from occurring.
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